This week’s ‘Premier League Hero’ is one of the the world’s most renowned central midfielders; Liverpool and England legend Steven Gerrard.
‘Stevie G’ is arguably the greatest midfielder to ever grace the Premier League’s modern era. The one-club man is one of the most influential as well as diverse players to ever be seen in English football as he has played as an attacking midfielder, a holding midfielder, a second striker, on the right wing and even at right back.
Gerrard is one of the most passionate and determined players to ever be seen in the Premier League as we have often see him win games for Liverpool all on his own.
This passion and determination for his club and for the game of football itself has resulted in him, so far, making 485 Premier League appearances and scoring 113 league goals, while he has also picked up three league cups, two FA cups, a Champions League, a UEFA cup and several individual awards.
These include an OBE, BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2006, Ballon d’Or Bronze Award in 2005, PFA Young Player of the Year 2001, PFA Players’ Player of the Year 2006, Player of the Month six times, included in three UEFA Teams of the Year and included in eight PFA Teams of the Year.
Gerrard was born in Huyton, Liverpool on the 30th May 1980. The midfielder began his impressive football career at a young age and played for his local side Whiston Juniors where he was scouted by several Premier League sides including Liverpool and Manchester United.
Gerrard decided that he would follow his dreams and sign for the team that he had supported all his life, joining the Liverpool Academy at the age of 9. Gerrard worked his way through the youth sides at Liverpool before signing his first professional contract at the club on November 5th 1997.
He went on to make his first team debut as a last minute substitute on the 29th November 1998 in a game against Blackburn Rovers. Gerrard struggled confidence-wise in his early days in the Liverpool first team as he suffered with nerves and wasn’t fully sure what position on the field suited him best.
This led to him receiving his first red card before his first goal for Liverpool as he was sent off in a Merseyside Derby in the 1999/00 season. Gerrard improved, slowly but surely, and he was given a huge boost of confidence when he netted his first senior goal in a 4-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday. Gerrard was hit with back and groin injuries, which he needed surgery for but he recovered just in time for an impressive 2000/01 season.
What a season it was for Gerrard and Liverpool as they won the League Cup on penalties against Birmingham, the FA Cup 2-1 against Arsenal and the UEFA Cup 5-4 against Alaves, which was a game that Gerrard managed to score in.
Liverpool finished 3rd in the league which meant that they would have European football the following season while Gerrard also managed to net seven times in the league in 33 appearances. Houllier began to see a huge improvement in Gerrard and handed him the vice captaincy behind Sami Hyypia in the 2002/03 season.
Gerrard improved immensely and showed his progress by netting a wonder goal in the League Cup final in which Liverpool won 2-0 against United. Gerrard only had the vice-captaincy for a year before being named captain in October 2003. Gerrard responded to the huge honour by signing a new four year contract at the club and helping his side consolidate their place in the top four.
The 2004/05 season was a special one for Gerrard and Liverpool as, even though they slipped to fifth in the league, they went on to have an outstanding run in Europe thanks to their captain.
Gerrard rescued Liverpool in a 3-1 win over Olympiakos which sent Liverpool to the knock-out stage where they managed to defeat Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea before creating one of the most spectacular final victories in football history.
Liverpool fell 3-0 behind in Istanbul against AC Milan but an influential six minutes from Gerrard made it 3-3 in the second half as he scored a header and won his side a penalty. Gerrard and Jamie Carragher played a heroic second half and extra time to keep Milan out, while Jerzy Dudek made a miracle save in extra time and saved spot-kicks from Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko to give Liverpool a legendary European win.
The heroics from Gerard in the Champions League final in Istanbul had major European sides interested in the player and he almost left for Chelsea, only to make a last minute U-turn and instead committed his future to Liverpool. Liverpool improved in the league as they finished third and Gerrard scored ten league goals in 32 league appearances but his highlight came in the FA Cup final against West Ham, which is now known as the “Gerrard Final”.
Liverpool fell 2-0 behind before Gerrard assisted a Cisse goal and scored an equaliser, but it seemed to slip away from Liverpool again as West Ham scored a freak goal but Gerrard stepped up to score an absolute screamer in the last minute to put the game into extra-time.
The game went into penalties and Gerrard netted his while Pepe Reina made saves to clinch the FA Cup for Liverpool. The 2005/06 season was one of Gerrard’s finest and he was rewarded with the PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
Gerrard and Liverpool consolidated their place in the top four and in Europe as they finished 4th and 2nd in the following two seasons and reached another European final against Milan but fell to a 2-1 defeat in Athens.
However, it wasn’t all bad as Gerrard received an OBE and Liverpool managed to create a lethal partnership with Gerrard and Fernando Torres. This partnership only helped progress Gerrard’s career and he was labelled as the greatest midfielder in the world by Zidane in 2009 during a week where Gerrard and Liverpool destroyed Real Madrid and Manchester United. Zidane stated,
“I think he might be the best in the world. He has great passing ability, can tackle and scores goals but most importantly he gives the players around him confidence and belief. You can’t learn that, players like him are just born with that presence”.
Even though Gerrard had reached many landmarks early in his career, he had to wait until the 22nd of March 2009 before scoring his first Premier League hat-trick which came in a 5-0 win over Aston Villa.
Gerrard’s consistency in the 2008/09 season led to him being named Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year, which came as a huge shock to Gerrard. Times of transition arose for Liverpool between 2010-2012 as Rafael Benitez, Torres and Xabi Alonso all left while Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish were both sacked as Liverpool bosses.
Gerrard almost left for Munich but stayed throughout the troubles at Anfield and he was rewarded for his loyalty in 2012 as he managed to score a hat-trick in a Merseyside derby and then lifted the League Cup for a third time when Liverpool defeated Cardiff on penalties.
Gerrard committed his future to Liverpool again and had his testimonial at Anfield against Olympiakos where his former team mates Carragher and Robbie Fowler both made appearances. Not much was expected from Liverpool in the 2013/14 season except slow progress under Brendan Rodgers but it turned out to be wonderful season for Liverpool and Gerrard as they shot up from 7th to 2nd and Gerrard netted 13 times including his 100th Premier League goal in a game against Newcastle United.
Gerrard took the limelight again in wins against Manchester United, West Ham United and Fulham where his goals meant three points for his side.
Gerrard reached another landmark in his career in August 2014 as his goal against Tottenham meant he had scored in 16 consecutive Premier League seasons. Gerrard is currently in the final year of his contract and it is crucial that Liverpool offer him a new deal to stay at the club as he his still such an important influence in the current Liverpool side and he is up there with Kenny Dalglish as the greatest player to ever play in the famous red of Liverpool.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena
Featured image By Ruaraidh Gillies [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons